VANCOUVER—The details of Vancouver Mayor Sam Sullivan’s relationship with the Chinese Consular General and the Chinese regime itself became the focus in a B.C. Supreme Court hearing on Wednesday.
The City of Vancouver wants Falun Gong practitioners to dismantle their 7-year 24/7 protest consisting of signs and a hut outside the Chinese Consulate on Granville St., saying it violates a city bylaw.
Falun Gong’s legal team presented Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein with 26 points highlighting their argument that Sullivan’s attempts to get rid of the protest are a result of his dealings with the consulate and the regime in Beijing during trips to China.
The lawyers told the court that the timing of meetings between the city and Falun Gong protesters indicated that before and after trade delegations to China, formal meetings were arranged with or pressure put on the Falun Gong to dismantle or downsize the site.
They added that Approved Destination Status for Canada was used as leverage by the Chinese regime.
The city's lawyer, Tom Zworski, argued that the mayor and city merely wish to enforce the bylaw and that the case is not about “the city using its powers in some draconian way."
“The claim of bylaw infraction by the city of Vancouver is just a front. This is not the reason that the city was concerned, it really has really nothing to do with bylaw infraction. It’s a question of appeasing the Chinese government and the Chinese Consular General,” said Falun Gong's lawyer, Clive Ansley, in an interview with New Tang Dynasty TV.
Prior to the week-long hearing that will determine the future of the site, Sullivan had been cross examined by Falun Gong’s legal counsel.
Justice Stromberg-Stein also heard details of the intimate relationship between Sullivan and the ex-Chinese Consular General, Yang Qiang. In August 2008 the mayor and his parents attended a dinner at Yang's private residence at which the mayor brought up the protest site.
“I wanted to update him on what was going on,” Sullivan was quoted as saying during the cross examination.
The Chinese Consular General, however, later told the Sing Tao Daily that his biggest regret was that he hadn’t succeeded in removing the site despite urging local governments to do so on many occasions.
Sullivan has been invited to China several times, including in 2004 when he and Premier Gordon Campbell went there on a trade delegation. In August Sullivan was brought to Bejing as an honoured guest at the Paralympics Games where he held the Olympic torch in the opening ceremonies.
“When I go to China, they treat me like an emperor. And we don’t have that tradition of that red-carpet thing, so it’s a little embarrassing for me in a way.” the mayor told the Vancouver Sun in 2006.
Chen Yonglin, a diplomat who defected from the Chinese Consulate in Sydney, Australia, said during a visit to Vancouver in 2007 that this is par for the course when western government officials visit China.
“China always treats these seniors officials, MPs, mayors and counselors, like emperors. We [consular officials] have been putting pressure on federal government and local governments and any organizations in relation to Falun Gong and democracy.”
Chen said that the “war on Falun Gong” is the top priority for the Anti-Falun Gong working groups existing around the world within Chinese consulates, and that it’s “absolutely impossible” that Mayor Sullivan had not been strongly urged to remove the protest site.